Category Archives: Puerto Rico 2019

Puerto Rico: Guanica

June 6, 2019

On Monday June 3 we went to Guanica, which is in the southwestern part of the island. We heard about the sugar factory that was actually located in a town called Ensenada. People who lived in Ensenada were able to work right there at the factory and when they got off work they could go to the store that was owned by the factory’s owners.   Our tour guide, Rudy, had a lot of information to offer. He told us that the land he inherited from his father, cost his father 50 cents at that time. He also told us that there were Puerto Ricans who migrated to Hawaii to show the Hawaiian people how to grow and process sugar. But the ship that was supposed to return never came back and so the Puerto Rican heritage was also in Hawaii. I found this interesting because he said that you can see and hear the difference between Native Hawaiians and Puerto Rican Hawaiians.

We finished with the tour early and decided to go on a spontaneous hike, which we were all excited to have some exercise with all the rice and beans we’ve been eating. When we got to the top we had a 360° view that had the ocean on one end and then the mountains and town on the other. It was breath taking and you could see God’s beautiful creation.

When we got to the bus, that’s when the group probably hit our lowest point in the trip. Most, if not all of us in the group were dealing with the feeling of homesickness and being in the null of the trip we were all feeling fairly down. When we got back we realized that over half the group’s backpacks had been stolen, mine included. I felt so many emotions and I didn’t know which one to let loose. There was this mixture of anger that someone would do this, and then sadness that a person would feel the need to do this, and also violation  because of personal things I had in my wallet. I think most of the group felt the same way.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the police station and got a small glimpse of how officials work in another context. Even though this was not an event we wanted to go through and feel this way, it definitely helped to bring us closer together as a group. Jenni and Adam were and still have been very strong leaders for us as we all had to learn this very difficult lesson. It’s been an amazing trip and even though it was only 3 weeks I think every person has grown in a new, positive way throughout the trip and we are not the same people as when we first came to this beautiful island!

~ Ryo Mazariegos

Group after our first salsa class

Puerto Rico: Home stays

This week has been filled with new people, new experiences, and new destinations. One of these new experiences has included the opportunity to take Spanish classes, which has allowed us to expand our vocabulary and improve our ability to communicate in Puerto Rico. These Spanish classes were conducted at ISLA. This week, students were assigned to live with local families. This has been a unique opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in authentic Puerto Rican culture. I have learned so much from my host family including: agape love, hospitality, and genuine kindness. In addition to our Spanish classes and home stays, we also took group trips  to museums, which included Museo de Arte in San Juan and the Museo de Arte, Historia y Anthropologia.

Lead photo taken at the Museo De Arte De Puerto Rico in San Juan
Dinner at our home stay. *Pork, rice, beans, and salad. This was a meal prepared by our host mom that was absolutely delicious.

Pictured left to right: Emily Oyler, Michaela Nichols, and Sonya- our host for our homestay.

Our week has consisted of many laughs, stories, and getting to know one another. Sonya and her husband Adriano, welcomed us into their home with open arms and kindness. Each day we ate breakfast and dinner all together at their dining room table that was prepared for us by Sonya. This picture was taken at Plaza Las Americas, the mall in San Juan. Sonya took us out shopping for a “girl’s evening” on one of our first nights with her. We feel blessed to have spent this week with our host parents. It has given us the opportunity to learn more about Puerto Rican culture and experience life through others’ perspectives.

Next week we will be visiting the south end of Puerto Rico and continuing our adventure.


-Emily Oyler and Michaela Nichols

Group after our first salsa class

Puerto Rico: bringing people together

25 May 2019

Our Catamaran trip was such an amazing experience!! We started out our trip on a 45-minute ride out to the small island of Cayo Icacos. It was beautiful there with the white sand and clear water (where the picture below was taken). Here, we practiced snorkeling, swimming, and had the opportunity to lay out on the beach or boat. After we ate lunch on the boat, we headed out to the middle of the water where the Caribbean Sea met the Atlantic Ocean. It was awesome to see the rough Atlantic waves coming into the calm Caribbean Sea. We stayed on the Caribbean side to snorkel since it was much calmer. While snorkeling we saw a coral reef along with many different fish. It was beautiful! This experience with all of my friends was wonderful and one that I will never forget!!

– Chrissy Delawder

30 May 2019

This past week in Puerto Rico has changed my life! I never thought I would be this impacted and see so many places in such a short amount of time. From white sandy beaches to the El Yunque Rainforest, from historic landmarks and battlefields, to museums, community centers, Spanish class, and plenty more…our group has seen and been a part of so much! Something that I see everywhere we go is how humble the people are. Hurricane Maria impacted this beautiful place detrimentally, of course, but many people saw the hurricane as a blessing to bring them together, re-build, and find ways to sustain themselves and protect one another from future hurricanes. I am blown away by how the people we have talked with have handled the situation they were put in, and I think we can all take away a lot from their constant positivism .

In addition, we started home-stays this week, and this is a much different experience than I could have ever imagined, but in a great way! My host mom is sweet and makes sure we get our bellies full before bed every night! I got the chance to sit down and talk with her last evening and really get to know her more! After home-stays finish here in a few days, we will be heading off to Ponce, Puerto Rico to continue learning, exploring, and serving. I can’t wait to see what this next week and a half holds for our group!

-Ally Coffey

Group after our first salsa class

Puerto Rico

All we can say is wow. Our first week here in Puerto Rico has been filled with lots of new encounters. Some of us experienced our first time far away from home, some experienced our first time on a plane, and all of us are experiencing breathtaking views of God’ s creation that a picture can do no justice. Along with all the breathtaking views and exciting bonding experiences, we have also come across a lot of new feelings. We are learning about the struggles Puerto Rican’s are facing, whether it be governmental, economic, natural disasters, or beneficial decisions for their personal lives. However, just within these few days we have seen the perseverance instilled in Puerto Ricans, and I have to say it’s awe inspiring.

We have been able to tour the city of San Juan and learn about the history of Puerto Rico, meet with a Mennonite School, along with a fun day of scuba diving. We recently just met our host families and will be spending the next week with them, diving more in depth into their culture. We will also be starting Spanish classes this upcoming week, along with one of our few service projects. It has been challenging to hear the impacts those have had on the issues surrounding them in Puerto Rico. Some people still don’t have roofs on their homes from hurricane Maria, and many places, including my home stay, does not have acceptable drinking water from the sink, so we have to rely on clean water through continually buying water bottles.

It is a blessing that God has granted us this wonderful opportunity to learn and engage with our world and those around us from far and wide. Our group continues to pray for guidance while we are here and blessings for continued learning and bonding. May God continue to open our eyes to those around us and place us where we can be of service to those around us through Him. More to come soon!

-Emily Lam

Group after our first salsa class